(Reuters) – Brendon McCullum ended a barren run of scores and three-year century drought as he and Ross Taylor tore apart a weakened West Indies attack to drive the hosts to 367 for three at the close of the first day of the opening test today.
The 32-year-old McCullum, who last scored a test century in November 2010 and had accumulated just 85 runs in his previous four tests, was back to his aggressive best as he finished the day on 109 not out including 14 boundaries and three sixes.
Taylor was on 103, his ninth test century, as the pair added an unbroken 182 runs in a little under three years as the hosts plundered the under-powered West Indies bowling in the first contest of the three-match series.
“He was back to the Brendon of old,” Taylor told reporters at University Oval in Dunedin.
“The way he went about his innings, he let the ball come and once he got his eye in… he batted very well.”
McCullum came into the match under an injury cloud with reports suggesting he was contemplating retirement with a long-standing back problem that was not responding to treatment.
The former wicketkeeper, who was seen doing stretching exercises when at the non-striker’s end, however, did not appear to be too troubled as he built his innings.
He was initially cautious having joined Taylor shortly before tea with the hosts on 185-3 and aware another quick wicket could have ended the good start provided by openers Hamish Rutherford (62) and Peter Fulton (61).
The aggressive McCullum, however, increased the tempo after the break as he scored 103 runs in the final session to beat Taylor to the century milestone by a few minutes.
“Its been well documented that he has been under the pump after a lean patch… and it was a very special moment for him… but our jobs are not done yet,” Taylor said of the fact the pair would need to refocus when play resumed on Wednesday.
“We need to continue on come the morning… and hopefully a score of 500, 550 is realistic.”
The visitors had gambled on the composition of their attack with Tino Best and Shannon Gabriel the only front-line pace bowlers with captain Darren Sammy taking the third seamer role.
The punt failed to pay off on the first day, though, even after Sammy won the toss and asked the hosts to bat on one of the greenest wickets the West Indian skipper said he had seen.
He had hoped his side would be able to utilise the lively strip and overcast conditions to put the hosts on the back foot early.
However, new-ball pairing Best and Gabriel failed to exploit the conditions by bowling too short of a length and Fulton and Rutherford put on 95 for the first wicket before the latter was dismissed shortly before lunch.
The West Indies’ only period of dominance was for about an hour after the first interval, when a hostile Best dismissed Aaron Redmond for 20 and peppered Taylor with a barrage of short-pitched deliveries.
When Fulton was dismissed about 15 minutes before tea, the hosts had looked slightly vulnerable but Taylor and McCullum saw New Zealand through to the break then attacked in the final session as the pitch flattened out.
Shane Shillingford, who had been under a selection cloud following bio-mechanical analysis of his action when he bowled his ‘doosra’, was the most economical of the visitors’ attack.
The 30-year-old had figures of 1-88 off 28 overs but was extracting little assistance from the pitch and got more expensive as the day wore on.